Memphis lost one of its most valuable citizens Thursday when Dorothy Jones, better known to family, friends, and the world at large as "Happy," passed away at the age of 80.
Happy Jones was born a member of the socially prominent
Snowden family but, like her late sisters, Sally and Edie, embraced society in the largest possible sense. She involved herself in every imaginable public issue aimed at broadening justice and opportunity for citizens at large — from the sanitation workers
- "Happy" Jones
' struggle of 1968 to black-white comity to women's rights to fairness and equality for the LGBTQ community.
She was an activist for numerous other causes, worked as a marriage and family therapist and social worker, and was a recipient of the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis Legends award. Politically, she worked within the Republican Party to help establish a two-party political system during the 1960s and 1970s but became an independent, working across party lines, as her ever-growing progressive streak became irreconcilable with the rightward drift of the party she had been born into.
Among her important accomplishments were the chairmanship of Concerned Women of Memphis and Shelby County, which did much to heal the divisions aroused by the sanitation strike and the consequent assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the founding of the Memphis Community Relations Commission, the goal of which was to consolidate social progress.
In the words of her longtime friend, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen: "No one made Memphis more a City of Good Abode than Happy Jones. She was always in the forefront of progress and justice. Happy was a leader for over 50 years, crossing political and racial lines. Hers was a life well lived."
And well enjoyed, as well. As any of her companions can testify, no nickname was more appropriate than the one she bore as her message to the world.
At election time, for the last couple of decades, she had joined with two other activist women, Jocelyn Wurzburg and Paula Casey, in publishing a widely noted ballot indicating their respective choices for public office. (The three of them usually agreed, but not always, and they made a point of stating the reasons for their recommendations.)
As happens tragically often in the case of longtime devoted spouses, Happy's death follows closely upon that of her late husband, Fred Terry, who passed away in September. Both he and she were involved in a freak household accident resulting in a mutual fall, following which, in the process of their receiving medical attention, already dormant illnesses were discovered to be in progress.
Happy Jones' lifetime of selfless devotion to public causes is symbolic of an age, largely bygone, in which reasonable voices in support of reasonable outcomes counted for much in the life of the community at large. She will be missed.